This Brooklyn Fashion Designer’s Cozy Loft Was Renovated on a Budget

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By J. Michael Welton
A fashion label founder refuses to hide the rough side of her Brooklyn apartment, exposing pipes, columns, vents, and more.

From the moment they met, Victoria Bartlett knew that she and designers Jaffer Kolb and Ivi Diamantopoulou were on the same wavelength. 

"When we got together, there was a true meeting of the minds—an organic, harmonious merger of thoughts and ideas," says Victoria of her first encounter with the partners at New Affiliates design studio. The trio clicked to create an unusual new loft in an old Brooklyn building.

New Affiliates transformed Victoria Bartlett’s 1,000-square-foot loft in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, using everyday materials like brass and plywood. The shelves are made with Home Depot hardware.

New Affiliates transformed Victoria Bartlett’s 1,000-square-foot loft in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, using everyday materials like brass and plywood. The shelves are made with Home Depot hardware.

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Victoria is the founder of fashion label VPL (short for "visible panty line") and director of Neverbefore, a new athleisure brand. In early 2017, when she was ready to move from a brownstone in Boerum Hill to a loft in a 1947 chocolate factory in Bedford-Stuyvesant, she called on Kolb and Diamantopoulou to renovate it. "The space was dark and cluttered and closed," Kolb recalls.   

The sink’s copper pipes were rerouted to come down from the ceiling instead of up through the cabinets. Some of the storage units have lacquered MDF faces. 

The sink’s copper pipes were rerouted to come down from the ceiling instead of up through the cabinets. Some of the storage units have lacquered MDF faces. 

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For inspiration, Victoria referred the pair to Donald Judd’s sculptures and the artist’s Spring Street studio, which is now a museum. She wanted the loft to be a little rougher around the edges than her brownstone. "Victoria was very gifted in elaborating the aesthetic she had in mind," Diamantopoulou says. "We came back with ideas, and she said: ‘Yes, this is perfect!’ It was kind of seamless." 

Seamless is an interesting word choice, because seams—the thin lines between materials—figure heavily in both New Affiliates’ work and Victoria’s clothing. All three designers prefer to expose and draw attention to seams rather than hide them. "Instead of saying that something is held together by some magical force that’s invisible, we’d rather show the way things are held together," Diamantopoulou says. 

Designers Jaffer Kolb and Ivi Diamantopoulou had to contend with the apartment’s two giant <br>columns. The loft’s outline conforms to one of them.

Designers Jaffer Kolb and Ivi Diamantopoulou had to contend with the apartment’s two giant
columns. The loft’s outline conforms to one of them.

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To start, the designers broke the loft into five living spaces. Victoria asked for a sleeping area for herself and another for guests. She wanted a study, a new kitchen, and a living/dining area. The bath was acceptable as it was. "I wanted an open environment, something that didn’t feel like I was in a cave," she says. 

In the kitchen, a quartz Caesarstone countertop hugs the other column.

In the kitchen, a quartz Caesarstone countertop hugs the other column.

Kolb and Diamantopoulou chose a palette of affordable materials. For walls, panels, and cabinets, they hand-selected sheets of radiata pine plywood, which they picked for its marble-like veins, lack of knotholes, and almost rosy color. "It’s closer to a pink spectrum than to yellow," Kolb says. They secured each sheet with brass fasteners that complement the hardware on the new kitchen dishwasher and the rerouted copper pipes descending from ceiling to sink. "VPL is about bringing the inner out, and it’s kind of the same thing here," Victoria says. "It’s a very simple understanding of design and pureness, and not overdesign."

Victoria collects paraphernalia from medical catalogs, like the model spine on display in her study. The chrome Triennale Atomic Orbiter floor lamp is by Robert Sonneman.&nbsp;

Victoria collects paraphernalia from medical catalogs, like the model spine on display in her study. The chrome Triennale Atomic Orbiter floor lamp is by Robert Sonneman. 

The apartment’s 13-foot ceilings weren’t tall enough for two full levels, but New Affiliates added an elevated 200-square-foot sleeping loft with a four-foot-tall, wire-mesh guardrail. "It performs—when you look at it front-on, it’s more transparent, and when you look at it from an angle, it’s more opaque," Kolb says. 

They deftly handled two existing three-and-a-half-foot-wide Art Moderne columns. "In the kitchen, we built the island around the column, so it’s really hugging it," Kolb says. "In the sleeping area, the shape of the sleeping platform is determined by the shape of the column." 

The loft’s four-foot-high rail was fabricated by general contractor Create NYC Contracting, using metal mesh from McNichols. The bed is by Nathaniel Wojtalik.

The loft’s four-foot-high rail was fabricated by general contractor Create NYC Contracting, using metal mesh from McNichols. The bed is by Nathaniel Wojtalik.

Their estimated budget was $150 per square foot, but the renovation came in closer to $100—a client-pleaser, for sure. But so was their design. "It’s womblike, as well as warm and nurturing," Victoria says. Which proves that, sometimes, great minds really do think alike.  

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